Unionists accused of ‘pensions con’ as Westminster committee launches latest attack

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  By Martin Kelly

Unionist parties have been accused of trying to fool people in Scotland over the issue of pensions after a Westminster committee launched yet another attack on independence.

SNP Welfare spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford today said a Yes vote could end the “pensions con” that UK Government and Labour politicians are trying to play on people in Scotland.

As Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee today (Monday) attempts to whip up fears over pensions, the SNP has called on the Westminster parties to stop treating people like fools and publish their plans for the future of the state pension.

The Scottish Affairs Committee, which is comprised solely of pro-Union MPs, has published a report accusing the Scottish Government of making plans for pensions that are “almost entirely uncosted”.

The committee’s Labour Chair, MP Ian Davidson said: “They cannot say what their pensions bill would be. They have no credible plans to cope with the rising costs of Scotland’s ageing population. They don’t know what their own promises would cost.

“Pensioners – current and future – deserve certainty. Instead the Scottish government offer no detail, no costings, no believable plan and what they are offering amounts to the biggest mis-selling scandal in history.”

However the committee was accused of playing games over the issue by Dr Eilidh Whiteford who said:

“Pensioners have worked all their lives and made their contribution and we should ensure they receive decent pensions.

“Scotland has paid more in taxes in each and every one of the last 30 years than the rest of the UK, much of it through the efforts of those who are now pensioners and with independence we will ensure pensioners get the support they are rightly entitled to.”

In May this year, UK Pensions Minister Steve Webb confirmed that pensions would continue to be paid in full regardless of a Yes vote.

Asked by Labour MP Ian Davidson if, following independence, “people themselves could be assured that their pensions are secure” Mr Webb replied “Yes”.

He said: “You don’t have to be a UK citizen to get a UK pension.  So we will obviously, for the people who have put national insurance into our system, we would pay them a pension wherever they lived so separation wouldn’t affect that… You could retire to France and we’d just pay you a pension, so where you end up isn’t material, because you’ve paid into the system.”

Dr Whiteford added: “The UK and Scottish Governments have guaranteed that pensions will continue to be paid whatever the result of the referendum and the Scottish Government has confirmed pensions will be set at a minimum of £160 a week in 2016-17.  The UK Government and the Labour party have failed to tell pensioners what they intend to pay or confirm they will ensure pensions keep pace with the cost of living.

“Instead of trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes Labour and the UK Government should set out their position on the future of the state pension.

“Scotland is one of the wealthiest nations on earth, wealthier per head than the UK, Japan and France yet for too many people, including too many of our pensioners, it doesn’t feel that way.

“Scotland’s vast wealth and resources means we are more able to afford pensions as part of our economy and as a share of our revenues, and with independence we will be able to grow our economy, boost the number of working age people and increase revenues guaranteeing our older people the dignity they deserve in retirement.”